The London Jacks



From the Victorian era until after WWII, the London Jacks were a popular sight in railway stations. They were charity collection dogs, and continued working even after they’d died. ‘Though dead, Jack is still on duty and solicits a continuance of your contributions in support of his good work for the Orphans’ reads the plaque in London Jack’s glass display case at the Bluebell Railway Museum.

The black retriever has spent almost a century – eight of his living years and a further 83 years as a stuffed corpse – collecting for good causes.

Once famous for patrolling London’s Waterloo station, he was one of a group of celebrity dogs who made thousands of pounds for charity from the mid-Victorian era until the 1950s.

He and others like Brighton Bob, Bruce of Swindon, Chelmsford Brenda, Wimbledon Nell and Oldham’s Rebel mixed with commuters, sometimes boarding trains on their own to encourage more giving by passengers. They barked, shook paws and performed tricks for money, their exploits reported in the press.

In 1896, a gang of criminals picked up Tim, an Irish terrier who worked at London’s Paddington station, and held him upside down over a suitcase, shaking him to free up the coins from his collection box. When released, he bit one of his assailants on the calf.

Some dogs were less than honest themselves. Initially they collected coins in their mouths and gave them in, but secure boxes had to be tied to them after a journalist for a Christian magazine discovered in the 1860s that Brighton Bob was using some of his money to buy biscuits at a bakery.

The dogs, usually looked after and trained by railway staff, proved popular and lucrative. For this reason there was a whole line of London Jacks. The first, who came into service in 1894, disappeared in 1899, but was later found in a house in Soho where he was being held by criminals; a boy heard barking and informed the police.

He retired, died and was stuffed and put on display in a cabinet with a slot for coins at the front. “From his glass case at Waterloo station, he still appeals to the passengers who pass by,” reported the Sphere newspaper in 1901. His son took over and was said to stop and look at his late father whenever he passed by.

The fifth Jack – the one now on display at the Bluebell Railway Museum in East Sussex – was born in 1917 and started collecting in 1923. He made more than £4,000 to help maintain an orphanage for railwaymen’s children in Woking, Surrey.

This story has been edited from a longer BBC version


2 comments on “The London Jacks”

  1. J. Folgard says:

    I had never heard of these -brilliant info nugget! I love it when you feature this kind of peculiar London lore, admin.

  2. Roger says:

    Station Jim, who collected from 1894-96, is on Platform 5 of Slough Station.

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